Urban: ‘New Normal?’ More like, ‘same old, same old’

On the return of the NBA, MLB and NFL amid COVID-19

Mychael Urban
May 28, 2020 - 9:09 am
Urban on the return of sports amid COVID-19

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

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It’s far from surprising, yet stunning all the same.

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That spirit of togetherness?

That long-lost feeling of community, thankfully found?

That shift of priorities, that resolve to give, give, give after lifetimes of take, take, take?

Gone, gone, gone. As the country slowly re-opens in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, that kumbaya vibe we all felt while sheltering in place is fading, and it’s fading fast. And for those of us naïve enough to think that the unifying spirit of the past couple of months might just carry into our “new normal,” it’s a sad reminder that leopards don’t change their spots. Sooner or later, true colors are revealed.

All of which brings us to the predictably varied responses to the various proposals our cornerstone sports entities are offering. The NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB are gearing up for “re-entry,” and JUSTLIKETHAT, the ugly side of sports has reared its ugly head.

“New normal”? Hardly. Ain’t a thing new or normal about players, owners and leagues being tone deaf. After weeks and weeks of saying and doing the right thing, sharing their vast riches with those less fortunate in one of our country’s darkest hours, they’re all back to their old selves:

Greedy, selfish and all but ignorant to the outside world. Never mind the staggering unemployment rate out here in the real world, fellas. You go right ahead with your proposals and counterproposals, bitching over — what else? — money.

Actually, let’s take the NHL out of this. In a mild upset, the league and its players have been fairly amicable. The proposed plan to return to action was faced with almost zero pushback, which isn’t entirely surprising. Hockey players are, in general, the most chill of all professional athletes. The most real, really. Relatable.

 Meanwhile, the NBA, NFL and MLB are reminding us that relatability caught a bullet train out of town and likely won’t be returning any time soon.

Some sports already have returned. We’ve seen what a NASCAR race looks like with empty grandstands, UFC is back and a nasty good time as always, and that highly entertaining charity golf match featuring Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning sort of doubled as notice that the PGA will be back in a matter of weeks.

 Alas, NASCAR, UFC and the PGA operate relatively under the radar. The Grand Poohbahs of the NBA, NFL and MLB, however, are front and center. And they know this, which makes the past week or so such a disappointment.

If you’re paying attention at all, you know this pandemic is far from over. Lives remain very much shaken to the core. The frayed nerves, the raw emotion, still right where they’ve been for weeks on end. You’d think those leagues would be aware of, and sensitive to, all of that. But nope, they’ve very quickly reminded us that we, the paying public that makes their fabulous lives possible, matter very little in the scheme of things.

 “New normal”? More like “Same old, same old.”

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